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Our body is made of cells, tissues, and muscles. Just like any other part of our body, our muscles also undergo stress. Muscle soreness commonly affects the body parts which undergo stress like overuse of the muscle due to an extensive exercise regime. Muscle soreness can affect anyone.
Performing exercises is great to achieve overall good health. However, excessive and strenuous exercise in people who start exercising after a long gap can result in muscle soreness. Anyone who is familiar with an exercise routine must be aware of this condition. In most cases, muscle soreness generally subsides in a few days. However, in some cases, it results in persistent discomfort even after several days. Muscle soreness is also referred to as DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) and it involves side effects like muscle tenderness with pain ranging from moderate to severe.
Several factors can affect the severity of sore muscles. These include age, the technique of exercising, and regular levels of activity. A person who uses the wrong technique of exercising often ends up with a severe condition of sore muscles. Therefore, it is important to exercise under the guidance of an instructor. Age and regular activity levels also play an important role in the severity of muscle soreness.
Muscle soreness is an indication of our muscles getting stronger. However, this process is often accompanied by moderate to severe pain due to muscle damage. Following some simple steps can help prevent sore muscles post-workout.
Stretching and warm-up exercises before a workout like slow jogging, slow hand and leg movements, and neck movements can warm up your body. As the name suggests, warm-up exercises increase the blood flow and flexibility of the muscles. This further helps in reducing the amount of injury caused by high-intensity workouts. Warming up sessions also increases the oxygen supply in the muscles and thereby prepares the muscles for an extensive workout.
Just like warm-up exercises, cool down is important to relax your muscles and bring your heart rates back to normal. Stretching muscles, taking deep breaths, and indulging in slow stretches enhance the effects of the exercise and also reduce the chances of getting severe sore muscles.
Gentle massage of the muscles is effective for recovering from sore muscles. Several techniques like rolling, kneading, and trigger pointing methods can relieve the soreness. Application of pressure on specific areas of the muscles through massaging increases blood circulation and reduces muscle tension.
Several remedies have been suggested for relieving sore muscle pain. There are many misconceptions associated with methods used for alleviating pain from sore muscles. Some important questions that debunk the common myths associated with sore muscles are:
Have you ever wondered if a hot bath is good for sore muscles? Taking a hot bath is recommended for sore muscles by therapists as it is considered a water therapy. It is also referred to as hydrotherapy, balneotherapy, or aquatic therapy. The method involves immersion of the body in water. A hot bath is reported to be a relaxing and comforting method, but several studies have shown that taking a cold bath provides better healing and relaxation of sore muscles.
A study conducted in 2015 showed that micro-tearing caused by exercise shows better healing with cold showers. Therapists suggest taking cold baths to reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain.
Some therapists also recommend an alternate burst of a hot and cold bath to alleviate post-gym fatigue.
Heat therapies or also referred to as thermo therapies are applied to the affected areas through heat wraps or heat patches. Heat patches are adhesive tapes that provide subtle low-level heat that reduces pain by relaxing the stiff muscles. Heat patches for sore muscles like any other heat therapies promote dilation of blood vessels and enhance blood flow. However, it is suggested only for soreness from over-exercising and should not be applied to fresh injuries.
A clinical studies have shown that heat wraps and heat patches which provide continuous low-level heat can be effective in the prevention of muscle soreness.
Essential oils from leaves, fruits, flowers, and roots have shown positive effects on alleviating muscle pain. Some of the most effective essential oils include chamomile, eucalyptus, ginger oil, lavender oil, peppermint oil, and tea tree oil.
Essential oils for sore muscles can be used in multiple ways such as in a massage, as a humidifier, or by adding it to the bath. The soothing and calming effects of essential oils relax muscles. Essential oils have shown benefits in calming both body and mind. The analgesic properties of essential oils help in releasing tension and alleviates pain.
Adding 5-6 drops of essential oil along with coconut oil or jojoba oil and massaging them gently on the muscles is beneficial to relax the muscles.
Chamomile is an ancient herb. It contains flavonoids that impart medicinal properties to the herb. The herb is used for several purposes and among them is for relaxing the muscles. It is widely used as an essential oil or as herbal tea. The herb has anti-inflammatory properties and relaxes blood vessels.
Several nutritional interventions have shown effectiveness in the prevention of sore muscles. Studies have shown nutritional interventions like omega-3-fatty acids, caffeine, and taurine are effective in reducing muscle soreness. Caffeine is effective in reducing muscle soreness by blocking the receptors that cause pain. Omega-3-fatty acid is known for eliciting anti-inflammatory responses while drinking enough water and keeping the body hydrated allows quick muscle recovery.
NOTE: Although trying out the above-mentioned methods helps relieve pain caused by muscle soreness, the time required for achieving complete relief can vary. The fastest way to recover from sore muscles includes taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These pills can provide quick relief from muscle soreness. However, it is important to restrain from excessive usage of NSAIDs.